14.07.2015
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), also known as nocturnal myoclonus, is a condition where a sleeper moves limbs involuntarily during sleep, thus disrupting normal sleep patterns. Unlike restless legs syndrome (RLS), where the sufferer voluntarily moves limbs to dispel an uncomfortable feeling, and which tends to occur mainly during resting waking hours, PLMD movement actually occurs during sleep itself and is completely involuntary, with the sufferer usually not even being aware of the movement. PLMD movements occur as a result of a sudden contraction of one or more muscle groups, but the root causes remain unknown.


Limb movements usually occur at periodic intervals from 20-40 seconds apart, mainly during the first half of the night, and only during non-REM sleep (during REM sleep, any movement is overridden by the muscle atonia or paralysis that accompanies that stage of sleep).
These movements are associated with partial arousals or micro-awakenings, although the sufferer is usually unaware of the limb movements or even of the frequent sleep disruptions. Both PLMD and RLS are much more common in older people, affecting up to a third of all over-60s by some estimates, and the two disorders are often talked about together and conflated, although they are quite separate complaints.


There are also some possible associations with REM sleep behaviour disorder and narcolepsy.



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